Hydrologic monitoring for Chicago’s Sustainable Streetscapes Program

Fact Sheet 2016-3014
Prepared in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)
By:  and 



The Chicago Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Streetscapes Program is an innovative program that strives to convert Chicago’s neighborhood commercial areas, riverwalks, and bicycle facilities into active, attractive places for Chicagoans to live, work, and play. The objective of each project is to create flourishing public places while improving the ability of infrastructure to support dense urban living. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), is monitoring the pre- and postconstruction hydrologic characteristics of an urban corridor on the south side of Chicago that is being renovated using sustainable streetscapes technology.

The CDOT Sustainable Streetscapes Program utilizes urban stormwater best-management practices (BMPs) to reduce the storm runoff to the local combined sewer system. The urban stormwater BMPs include permeable pavement, bioswales, infiltration basins, and planters. The urban stormwater BMPs are designed to capture the first flush of storm runoff through features that enhance the infiltration of stormwater runoff to shallow groundwater.

The hydrology of the Sustainable Streetscapes Program area is being monitored to evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of the urban stormwater BMP’s. Continuous monitoring of rainfall, sewer flows, stormwater runoff, soil moisture, and groundwater levels will give engineers and scientists measured data to define baseline pre- and postconstruction conditions for the evaluation of the BMPs.

Three tipping-bucket rain gages are located along the project corridor. The data provide information on the intensity and volume of rainfall. Rainfall can be highly variable even over a small area like the project corridor.

Continuous recording meters are located at specific locations in the combined sewers to record water level and flow during both dry weather (mostly sanitary flow) and wet weather conditions (stormwater runoff in addition to the sanitary flow). Sanitary flow is the largest source of flow in the combined sewers during dry weather, and stormwater runoff and sanitary flow combine during wet weather. The sewer flow data allow engineers and scientists to calculate total runoff volume for selected storm events.

Wells are located within the project corridor to record water levels and help determine the direction of movement of groundwater in response to rainfall and snowmelt. In urban settings with aging sewer systems, groundwater can seep into the sewers or combined sewage can seep from the sewers into the local groundwater system. The groundwater data are also important in evaluating the overall impacts of increased infiltration resulting from BMPs.

Data from wells show the relative water levels of shallow groundwater, water levels in the combined sewer system, and nearby surface-water channels within the project corridor. In some aging urban sewer systems, the local combined sewer system lies below the water table and receives substantial amounts of groundwater inflow, which can significantly reduce the amount of additional water the sewer system can accept.

The bioswale along the south side of West Cermak Road near South Throop Street functions to infiltrate stormwater runoff from the road. Stormwater on the road surface initially drains to the curb and then flows along the curb until it reaches a curb cut-out. Materials within the bioswale allow stormwater to infiltrate and reduce the load to the combined sewer.

A common feature in urban areas are curbside catch basins that collect stormwater runoff from paved streets. Stormwater drains first to the curb and then flows along the curb to the catch basin. Lateral sewer pipe connects the catch basin to the combined sewer beneath the street. The use of permeable pavers along the curbs in the project study reach let stormwater infiltrate before it reaches the curb, thus reducing the amount of stormwater draining to the combined sewers.

Water-level data from catch basins in the project study area show the effects of permeable pavers in reducing the stormwater drainage to the combined sewers.

Suggested Citation

Duncker, J.J., and Morrow, W.S., 2016, Hydrologic monitoring for Chicago’s Sustainable Streetscapes Program. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3014, 6 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163014.

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

ISSN: 2327-6916 (print)

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Hydrologic monitoring for Chicago’s Sustainable Streetscapes Program
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2016-3014
DOI 10.3133/fs20163014
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Illinois Water Science Center
Description 6 p.
Country United States
State Illinois
City Chicago
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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